Research for Kids: Animals and Continents!

Research can be a tricky thing to teach.  Our students not only need to learn how to research topics, but they also need to learn how to organize, write, and present the research gathered.  Starting with informational and paragraph writing most definitely helps out.  If you haven't checked all of that out click HERE or see how we use the hamburger paragraph in Hope's post HERE.  Learning how to write a strong paragraph will enhance their research writing immensely!

In weeks 1-2 students will become Animal Experts as they research a specific animal.  This can be done in groups or individually.  You could also do this as a whole class research project and focus on one animal together!  Here's what I've done in the past:
-Gather all of the nonfiction resources I have about animals (books, magazines, etc)
-Check out nonfiction books about animals from the school library
-Put all of these onto a table and sort based on type to see which books I can group together (sharks, whales, frogs, lions, etc.)
-I try to get at least 15 animals for students to browse through
-Students get with a partner and choose an animal to research together based on the books I have available
-They will use the books I have collected for them as well as online resources to become animal experts!

You definitely don't have to do it like that.  You can take your students to the school library and let them look through all of the animal books and choose from there.  You could also allow them to look online at animals before choosing.  That part is completely up to you!  I just like to make sure that I have plenty of resources available for them to complete the research while in class with me.

Students begin this unit brainstorming different types of animals, browsing through animal information, and building their knowledge bank for one animal.
Here you see how students can record their initial brainstorming.  Students can either use a printable or the Jeep booklet to chart their schema.
These books are perfect for whole group lessons about animal research.  Students could even choose an animal based on what they hear during a read aloud!
 After choosing their animal and brainstorming, the students will start the research.  We've included different books and websites that they can use to gain knowledge about their animal.  Students start with just gathering facts and small bits of information.  They will then turn that information into paragraphs in their Animal Research brochure as their rough draft.
It's important to go back and check through the research that has been gathered to make sure that we answered the initial questions.  We have questioning cards or a checklist that students can use to make sure they included as much information as possible.
Once students have revised and edited, it is time to publish their writing!  Students use this Safari craft to write their research paper.  The outside pockets were completed earlier in the week, so that is not something they have to worry about on publishing day.
But that's not all!  Since students only became an expert over one animal, it's time to learn from their classmates!  On the last day, students will collect facts from each other.

Of course it wouldn't be complete without a little safari hat and badge :)
Now let's move onto weeks 3 & 4 where students will travel the world to research a continent!  
The first two weeks expose students to researching while the last two weeks really dig deeper into different research components.  
Students begin by brainstorming essential questions.  In weeks 1 & 2 the essential questions were provided for the students.  Now it is their turn to work on creating questions that they believe their reader would want answered.  This helps narrow down the topic and allows the writer to be more focused and organized!
One of the major battles in research is just copying facts from our research sources.  During week 3, students will learn how to be fact finders.  Through modeling we will also teach students how to jot down research rather than copy complete sentences.
Once students have created their essential questions and learned how to find facts, it's time to research and write!  Students take their essential questions and find facts about the particular continent they are researching.  After research has been gathered, students will turn those bullet points into complete sentences and paragraphs.
Just like before, it's not over when the students have completed their research!  Now it's time to learn from each other.  PLUS, we really want the students to know about more than just one continent.  Students will take their passports around the room and learn about all of the continents from their classmates.  Here they will put their fact finding skills to work again!  Students will record a few facts about each continent without copying word for word  :)
We do provide a lot of websites that can be used for this research project, but sometimes it's nice to have books on hand as well... especially if technology is limited in your classroom.  Before purchasing anything, ask your coworkers or librarian if they have any books that you could borrow for a couple of weeks.  You'll be surprised how many book hoarders there are at your school, ha!  Here are some books we found that work great with weeks 3 & 4:

Penguin Palooza!

Do you study penguins in your classroom?  Over the years I have always tried to incorporate the research of these cuddly little waddlers because students just eat it up!  Even if you don't teach science, you can still make it work by completing a nonfiction unit of study PLUS you can tie that in with lots of great fiction literature with penguin characters!  Here's what I have done in the past...

This is probably my all time favorite:  Our Penguin Parade
Students were grouped together to study a type of penguin.  Once they completed their research, students drew life size penguins to display with their research.  We measured each penguin out and the students did an awesome job drawing their penguins together.  You can read more about that HERE!
We normally do start with whole-group research over penguins in general.  HERE's a little peek at how we started our penguin unit a couple of years ago.
Need a grammar skill to integrate?  Try adjectives!  Students can describe penguins for days!
Here we brainstormed a few adjectives and practiced writing facts rather than opinions.  You can grab that freebie HERE!
Even though we study penguins every year, I'm always looking for new ideas and activities to incorporate.  I'm just not the kind of person that can do the same thing year after year.  Katie and I looked high and low for penguin books that were top-notch.  Let me tell you... there's a lot of cute stories out there with penguins, but it was difficult to find stories that we could dig deep into!  When we ran across Penguin Problems and Flight School, we just had to create a little Rooted in Reading Special Edition!

In this unit you will read these two texts and compare the attitude of the characters.  One is super pessimistic and witty while the other is persistent and optimistic.  They view their limitations completely opposite... perfect for comparing and contrasting.  If your school promotes the Growth Mindset, I highly recommend Flight School!
Links to books

Because studying the different types of penguins is so intriguing, we include a nonfiction reader about Emperor Penguins that can be read together or independently.  The directed drawing of an Emperor Penguin chick can be paired perfectly with informational writing about the penguins!

Your students will also conduct their own little research.  This can be done for penguins in general OR for a specific type of penguin.  Your students can do this independently, in groups, or in partners. 
To finish it all off, students can make this little penguin booklet to showcase all of their research!  Just lift up the white body to see all of their hard work :)

To find the activities in this blog post, see below!